Cortisol is a brute. I can pinpoint the stress hormone's impact on my life. It's made me sick, it's made me cry at nothing, it's made me dream I was being killed by family members... It's truly demonic.
Which is why I refuse to let cortisol win. I firmly believe that we can choose to think positively or negatively about each day, and that it's never too late to make it a good one. Worrying won't change anything, but staying positive just might. Thoughts become things, after all. And with cortisol, those thoughts can become -- frightening, but true -- cancer, depression or a number of other serious medical conditions. So, to do my part in the fight against all things stressful, here are a few I've given myself permission not to get so uptight about.
The experts agree: Our individual sleep needs vary, sometimes quite a bit. But needing more -- or less -- than your peers doesn't make you any better or worse of a person. I've come to discover that I need about 8.5 to feel my best. I used to feel anxious to wake in the morning and find emails sent in the wee hours, feeling like I'd shirked responsibilities, or embarrassed to pass up a social activity in favor of hitting the hay. But because I'm a crabby, unfocused grump on too little sleep, it's for everyone's benefit that I don't freak about getting the sleep I know I need.
Confession: I have never groomed my eyebrows. Plucking, waxing, threading -- every method of keeping them contained sounds like torture to me. And the big and bushy look seems to keep coming back in style, anyway (or at least that's what I tell myself).
I have been blessed (hi, Dad!) with more-active-than-normal sweat glands. During my awkward teenage years, I tried a wide range of deodorants and antiperspirants, most of which left me itchy or bumpy... and still sweaty. My high school soccer team took to calling me Sweats (nice, huh?) after a couple of rounds of dehydration-related drama. Unsurprisingly, the more I stressed about sweating, the more I sweat, a vicious cycle of totally unfair high school angst. With the discovery of my brother's equally super-human sweating abilities, I realized my problem was here to stay, so today, it's just a fact of life. And if I'm ever tempted to be bothered by it, I tell myself it's the sign of a true athlete: "It's men who are most in-shape who will sweat the most, and the most quickly, because their bodies are conditioned," Neal Pire, a New York-based personal trainer and fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine, told Details. Take that!
When the conductors come over the loudspeaker to announce that the train to work is delayed (for whatever reason), I like to look around and see which commuters take the news the worst. The problem is usually resolved in five to 10 minutes, and there's nothing rolling our eyes will do about it -- we'll get there when we get there!
As a health editor, I used to get this nagging feeling that I should love yoga as deeply as I love Brussels sprouts. But yoga and I just never had our moment -- and that's okay! It's a practice intended to lift your spirits, so only growing tenser during class certainly isn't worth it.
Calling Old Friends Regularly
I'd like to be better at keeping in touch, but the friendships that are meant to last always fall right back into place when one of us gets around to picking up the phone.
The movement toward minimalism in the running world fascinates me, but, thanks to a history of stress fractures in my arches, I know my feet just aren't made for it. As much as I am dying to try sleeker designs, I feel pretty zen in my thick, cushiony soles.
Brown rice is undeniably healthier than the white variety. Generally, I make pretty nutritious choices when it comes to eating. I mean, I consider grapefruit a comfort food, and I even have a song about how much I love vegetables. But for some reason I can't get on the brown rice bandwagon, and I've decided to just allow myself the periodic pleasure of white rice.
Catching Up On Childhood Classics
I somehow managed to have missed out some of the most defining movies of the 1980s. The number of cultural references to my childhood that go sailing over my head can be embarrassing. But I realized there's a reason I haven't scheduled a Home Alone marathon for myself -- watching movies should be about relaxing, not checking items off a to-do list, especially if there's to be any semblance of actually limiting screen time. I'll get to the ones I want to watch when I really want to watch them.
"High School Sweethearts"
I'm not saying dating no longer causes anxiety. It most certainly does. But in what now seems like another life, I worried about whether reuniting with a former love was a reflection on my failures in dating or could possibly mean I was doing something right. As I wrote last week, he and I have bigger stressors to kick to the curb now. They're not kidding when they say, "Don't sweat the small stuff, and it's all small stuff."
Earlier on HuffPost:
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